Friday 8 July 2011

BS brewing

I'm lucky. Very lucky,. Every now and then I get to act out my brewing fantasies in a real brewery, in the company of real brewers. In February I had the chance of a day at Fullers again, brewing the second beer of the Past Masters Series, BS. Or as it's called on the label Double Stout.

The day didn't start well. The tube was buggered at Southwark and I had to walk to Waterloo. Great. The unscheduled stroll put me behind schedule.

At least it wasn't raining this time. I've been soaked a few times walking from the tube station. I sense the brewery before I see it: noise and the enticing aroma of malt mashing.

I go straight into the tasting panel with the brewers. A bit intimidating, but an interesting process.We try several samples from different batches of a couple of different beers.

We taste cask, canned, kegged and bottled London Pride. Porter. One was bitterer (35 IBU) than usual because it was parti-gyled with Golden Pride. I wouldn't have noticed.

The tasting ends with a very special comparison of cask beers. Mostly not Fullers. It's not often you get the chance to try several brewers' take on the same type of beer side by side. I'll name no names, but there were some surprisingly disappointing beers. Baby sick, that's all I'll say. One tasted just like it.

In the brewing office I get a chance to look at the brewing book. The BS log for the new brew. Derek shows me an envelope that was being used as a bookmark in the log. It was addressed to a Mr. S.... He said the surname was the same as a brewer he had known in his days at Truman. He'd been from a brewing family so it could have been his grandfather to whom the letter was addressed.

Next to be tasted is No. 3 invert sugar. There's dark fruit, dates, caramel, raisins. It's as dark as I'd expected. But more flavourful. Why has brewing sugar gone out of fashion? "It's not sexy," Derek says. It is to me.

John Keeling arrives and asks what the next Past Masters should be. I say "OBE" straight away. AK would have been first, but it wouldn't work as a bottled beer. Brendan can remember brewing OBE before it was discontinued in 1969. Replaced by Winter Ale, which was so popular it became a year-round brew. Winter Ale was sort of seasonal-specific so they had to come with a new name. They went for Extra Special Bitter. Maybe a 1930's recipe. Or one for a significant date. Like England's World Cup victory in 1966. But they didn't brew that day. It was a Saturday.

I remember it well. We were at our caravan in Mablethorpe. We'd no TV. I'd only seen a couple of England's group matches. The rest had been on the radio.

We were still radio-limited in Mablethorpe when the game kicked off. Germany scored. England equalised. Dad decided we should drive home to catch the end of the game. England took the lead on the way. We were just in time to watch the nerve-wracking last ten minutes. It didn't surprise me when Germany equalised form a late free kick. Inevitable.

A brew from a week before would be a great pick. One that would have been in the pubs the day the game was played.

Watneys. They had a special World Cup beer. I've seen a label. I wonder if it was any good? What am I thinking? It's bound to have been crap.

In the brewhouse, I get to make the mouse click that kicks everything off. It's ludicrously exciting.

Lunch is in the Mawson Arms with Derek Prentice. He tells me more fascinating stuff about brewing at Trumans. I really should be recording him.

Brendan takes the temperature manually with the stick. It looks a bit low. But it took forever to wipe all the grains off. They still look at the consistency of the mash and judge it by eye. You can see grains of a few different shades.  We taste some grains: pretty bitter and quite roasty.

We taste the first wort. Much less bitter than just the grains. But we'd tasted them right at the start of conversion.

I watch the sugar being pumped up through what the computer calls "honey". It's sugar syrup, but because it arrives late, it hadn't warmed enough to flow quickly. They use a jacket to warm the plastic sugar containers. It takes longer than usual to charge.

John Keeling takes me up on the roof. Copper 1 of LP is boiling and there is a wonderful smell. I explain that I remember it from my youth in Newark. "The BS will smell great, if it's anything like the Porter. Like coffee."

I sit in the control room, watching the copper slowly charge. 300 hl is the aim.Then it's my turn to work again. I start adding hops before all sugar in. The gravity is a bit low - 1064 instead of 1071. But not all sugar is in. The aim is 1075, post-boil.

Putting the hops in. It's sad (in both senses) and worrying how much that pleases me. Some tiny, tiny, physical contribution to a beer that hopefully thousands will enjoy. Maybe taking pleasure in that isn't so crazy. However small a part I played.

I walk back to the tube, BS is boiling. Fumes of coffee and hops wrap around me like a warm, comforting cloak. Happy, happy, joy, joy. That's how I feel. Happiness so profound that mere words can't do it justice.

I'm drinking a Past Masters XX right now. The bitterness. I put that in.


dana said...

Love it! I can tell you're bursting with pride.

What's happened with the BS? They didn't turn it into XX did they?

Do you or does anyone out there know if this series is making it to the States?

And what does baby sick taste like?

I'm jealous.

Ron Pattinson said...

Dana, the BS was released a couple of weeks ago as Double Stout.

I don't know if any of it will be exported to the USA. None of the XX was.

The taste of baby? Hard to describe, but unforgettable.

Alistair Reece said...

I know the feeling.

Whenever I get to brew with Jason down at Devils Backbone I end the day with this immense sense of satisfaction.

The most satisfying brew though was the Morana Dark Lager where I had done months of research in various languages, spoken to several Czech brewers and come up with the recipe.

Sitting at the bar drinking something I designed is a fantastic feeling, even better to watch other people love the beer just as much.

Oblivious said...

Fantastic stuff, hopefully brew an old Burton tomorrow

Ron are you allowed post any of the past masters recipes?

Ron Pattinson said...

Oblivious, I've never asked if I can publish the recipes.

Ron Pattinson said...

Velky Al, I get a real kick out of drinking all the beers I've been involved with.

I do hope I get to try the Devil's Backbone Dark Lager at the GBBF. I have the frustrating experience of not getting to taste many of the beers I've been involved with.

Martyn Cornell said...

OBE! Yaaaaaaay!

"a strong Burton … a very strong beer which … didn't strike you as powerful at first sip. It had a winey, rather sweet taste. All the same, three pints of it were enough for the heaviest drinker, if he wanted to go out of the pub on his feet."
(George Izzard, former landlord of the Dove, Hammersmith, in One for the Road)

BryanB said...

I just posted my write-up of the Past Masters Double Stout launch, which includes mention of the actual date chosen for the OBE recipe:

And yes, that's a six-pack. (-:

Ron Pattinson said...

Martyn, your name did come up in the conversation. I thought you'd be pleased.

Adrian Avgerinos said...

"Next to be tasted is No. 3 invert sugar. There's dark fruit, dates, caramel, raisins. It's as dark as I'd expected."

Interesting. How dark did you expect it to be? Is it darker than, say, maple syrup? As dark as blackstrap molasses?

thebrewingman said...

It was on draught at the Ealing Beer Festival. Very nice.

Ron Pattinson said...

Adrian, maple syrup, blackstrap molasses - I've no idea how dark they are.

Andrew Elliott said...

"Next to be tasted is No. 3 invert sugar. There's dark fruit, dates, caramel, raisins. It's as dark as I'd expected. But more flavourful. Why has brewing sugar gone out of fashion? "It's not sexy," Derek says. It is to me."

I agree completely, Ron. Thanks to your blog and Kristen's contributions, I whipped up a batch of sugar for my SSS brew. I had no idea how magical and what a massive impact the sugar could have. Tasting it straight was near mind altering! Damn sexy if you ask me; too bad for all the Reinheitsgebot elitists convinced that sugar is bad for beer -- too bad for them that is.

Congrats on the brew, I just wish I could get my hands on some. Ah well.

Kieran Haslett-Moore said...

XX has just made it to NZ which I'm extremly pleased about. I have written a column about it, I will send it to you Ron. One of the best beers I have had this year.

I hope BS makes it down here to.

Oblivious said...

Adrian Avgerinos

here is some Dark Invert No3 I have made, if that helps with its colour


Atis said...

Double Stout is amazing, bought a bottle yesterday and today I am going to buy many more.

RudeBoyBrewing said...

How do I know if the pub is pulling pints via Handpump from a keg or cask? There is a pub in Delray Beach, FL imported from London. The famous Blue Anchor. The London Pride is fantastic from the hand pump. Could it possibly be from a Keg? Have I been fooled?